"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Rosary of the Seven Sorrows

Praying the rosary has been a part of my prayer life for many years. Although I don’t always manage to pray it every day – in fact, I sometimes find myself mumbling Hail Mary’s as I’m falling asleep at night! – I’m absolutely convinced of its efficacy and power. If it hadn’t been for the rosary, I don’t think I’d even be a Catholic today. For it was through praying the rosary and asking for the grace of faith that my life was transformed.tumblr_n59xs6x3kF1tyta2no1_400

Up until a few years ago, I only knew about the traditional rosary, which most of us are familiar with. Also known as the Dominican Rosary (because of St. Dominic’s role in spreading this devotion), it has a crucifix at the end and contains 59 beads. There are four initial beads (for praying the Our Father and three Hail Mary’s), followed by five “decades” – each consisting of an introductory bead and a group of ten beads. As we pray each decade, we focus on different events in Salvation history: the Joyful Mysteries (such as the Birth of Jesus), the Sorrowful Mysteries (such as His Passion and Death), the Luminous Mysteries (which commemorate events in Jesus’ life, such as the Wedding at Cana), and the Glorious Mysteries (such as Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven).1 Other chaplets (including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy), one-decade rosaries (such as the auto rosary), rosary bracelets, and even rosary rings are all based on this traditional Marian devotion.

During a pilgrimage to Poland, however, a fellow pilgrim introduced me to a rosary I had never encountered before: the Servite Rosary.2 Also known as the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows (or the Seven Swords Rosary), it consists of seven sets of seven beads – each separated by a small medal depicting one of the sorrows of Mary. There are images of the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the temple, Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, the Crucifixion, Jesus being taken down from the Cross, and the laying of the Body of Jesus in the tomb. An additional three beads and medal are attached to the chain (preceding the first ‘sorrow’) and are dedicated to prayer in honour of Mary’s ‘tears’. Traditionally, the beads are black in colour to indicate sorrow.

Servite Rosary

Servite Rosary

The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows dates back to the 13th century, with the founding of the Servite Order in 1240.3 But it gained new popularity in the 1980s, following the Marian apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda. During the apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary assigned the young visionary, Marie-Claire Mukangango to reintroduce this devotion to the world. Immaculee Ilibagiza writes:

“During her visitations to Kibeho, the Holy Virgin revealed that this rosary possesses immense spiritual power for those who say it sincerely. She promised that when prayed with an open and repentant heart, the rosary would win us the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins and free our souls from guilt and remorse. She also promised that over time, the rosary would develop within us a deep understanding of why we sin, and that knowledge would give us the wisdom and strength to change or remove any internal flaws, weaknesses of character, or personality faults causing unhappiness and keeping us from enjoying the joyous life God intended for us to live. The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows contains all the power you need to change your life for the better, obtain peace and happiness, realize your true potential, fulfill all your dreams, and grow closer to God’s light.”4

During one of the Kibeho apparitions, the Holy Virgin asked that we pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows as often as possible, but especially on Tuesdays (the day she first appeared to Marie-Claire) and Fridays (the day her Son was crucified). “The Blessed Mother also stressed that the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows is intended to complement – and in no way replace – the traditional rosary.”5

Meditating on the sorrows of Mary is a way we can show our love for our Blessed Mother; it also helps us enter more deeply into the intimate bond of love that united Mary and Jesus. During September – the month dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows – may our humble prayers, which commemorate the pains and sorrows Mary suffered out of love for her Son, not only bring her comfort and consolation but also be a source of grace and blessing to us all.

– Sharon van der Sloot

Methods of praying the Servite Rosary vary. The devotion may be spread over a week (commemorating one sorrow each day) or it may be prayed in a single day.

Rosary of the Seven Sorrows6

Introductory Prayer: My God, I offer You this rosary for Your glory, so I may honour Your Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin, so I can share and meditate upon her suffering. I humbly beg You to give me true repentance for all my sins. Give me wisdom and humility so that I may receive all the indulgences contained in this prayer.7

Act of Contrition: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend You, my God, You Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen

Pray 3 Hail Mary’s: In compassion for our Sorrowful Mother’s tears and to offer our tears in union with hers.

Before Each Mystery, Pray: Most merciful mother, remind us always about the sorrows of your son, Jesus.

  1. The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:22-35)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

  1. The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

  1. The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Loss of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

  1. The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

  1. The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross (John 19:25-27)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

  1. The Sixth Sorrowful Mystery: Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus in Her Arms (John 19:38-40)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

  1. The Seventh Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:41-42)

Pray 1 Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s

Concluding Prayer: Queen of Martyrs, your heart suffered so much. I beg you, by the merits of the tears you shed in these terrible and sorrowful times, to obtain for me and all the sinners of the world the grace of complete sincerity and repentance. Amen.

Three times, say: Mary, who was conceived without sin and who suffered for us, pray for us.


1 For more detailed information on how to pray the Traditional Rosary, see “How to Pray the Rosary,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; available from http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/rosaries/how-to-pray-the-rosary.cfm; Internet; accessed 29 September 2015.

Other rosaries include the “Franciscan Crown” – also known as the Rosary of the Seven Joys of Mary – which celebrates joyful events on the life of Our Blessed Mother: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Finding of Our Lord in the Temple, the Resurrection, and the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven and her Coronation. It consists of seven decades plus two additional Hail Mary beads, for a total of 72 beads. The Wedding Rosary – also called a Lasso Rosary (or Lazo Rosary) – is an oversized rosary that is two rosaries joined together in the centre. The two parts share a crucifix, the first five beads, and the rosary centre. It has two (rather than one) loops of five decades each. “The lasso rosary is part of a wedding ceremony, especially in Hispanic culture, where the loops of the rosary are put over the head of the bride and groom by the priest. This is symbolic of the joining of the two in God; their prayer lives will now be joined as well. Since the rosary is to be placed over the heads of both the bride and groom, the beads are typically oversized with larger spaces between beads in order to make the rosary long enough.” (Quoted from Aquinas and More Catholic Goods; available from http://www.aquinasandmore.com/catholic-articles/what-are-the-different-types-of-rosaries/article/131/sort/relevance/productsperpage/12/layout/grid/currentpage/1/keywords/rosary; Internet; accessed 29 September 2015.)

The Servites are a mendicant order within the Catholic Church, which means that they depend directly on charity for their livelihood. The Servites devoted their prayer to the sorrows of Mary, choosing seven in number as it signifies fullness, completeness, and abundance.

Immaculee Ilibagiza, Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa (Vancouver, B.C.: Hay House, 2008), 187-188.

5 Ibid., 188.

6 Cf. Ibid., 188-197.

The following promises are attached to the recitation of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows:

INDULGENCES – Pope Benedict XIII, September 26th, 1724, granted an indulgence of 200 days for every Our Father and every Hail Mary to those who, with sincere contrition, and having confessed, or firmly purposing to confess their sins, shall recite this Chaplet on any Friday, or on any day of Lent, on the Festival of the Seven Dolours, or within the Octave; and 100 days on any other day of the year. Pope Clement XII, December 12, 1734, confirmed these indulgences, and moreover granted:

1) A Plenary Indulgence to those who shall have recited this Chaplet for a month every day ~ confession, Communion and Prayers for the Church, required as usual.

2) An indulgence of 100 years to all who should recite it on any day, having confessed their sins, with sincere sorrow, or at least firmly purposing to do so.

3) 150 years to those who should recite it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Holidays of Obligation, with Confession and Communion.

4) A Plenary indulgence once a year, on any day, to those who are accustomed to recite it four times a week, on condition of Confession, Communion, and the Recital of the Chaplet on the day of Communion.

5) 200 years indulgence to all who recite it devoutly after Confession; and to all who carry it about them, and frequently recite it, 10 years’ indulgence every time they shall hear Mass, hear a sermon, or reciting Our Father, and seven Hail Marys shall perform any spiritual or corporal work of mercy, in honor of our Blessed Savior, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or any Saint, their advocate.

(All these indulgences were confirmed by a decree of January 17th, 1747, and rendered applicable to the souls in Purgatory.)

OTHER PROMISES – “This devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of My Mother will restore faith and hope to broken hearts and to ruined families; it will help to repair the destruction; it will sweeten sorrow. It will be a new strength for My Church, bringing souls, not only to confidence in My Heart, but also to abandonment to the Sorrowful Heart of My Mother.” (Our Lord to Berthe Petit)

FOUR SPECIAL GRACES – Promised to those devoted to the 7 Sorrows of Mary: Revealed by Our Lord to St. Elizabeth of Hungary:

1) The grace of True Repentance for all their sins should they invoke The Blessed Virgin Mother in the name of her Sorrows before their death.

2) Jesus would protect them in their tribulations all who remember this devotion; they would have His special protection especially at the hour of death.

3) Jesus would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven.

4) That He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, so that she might obtain for these souls all the graces she wanted to lavish upon them. (Quoted from “Servite Rosary,” Always Catholic: All Things Roman Catholic; available from http://www.alwayscatholic.com/?page_id=1784; Internet; accessed 29 September 2015).

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